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In 2007, there weren’t that many options for a web based project management tool, at least not as today. Back then, there were like two choices — and Active Collab was the only one you could host yourself. I wanted to own the data instead of renting from someone else and getting locked in.
When Active Collab first launched, I was already four years into my web development career and I was doing contract work. I needed a way to do basic project management:
- break a project down into estimable pieces,
- track the progress and
- collaborate with other people.
At that time (as well as today), Active Collab was exactly the thing I needed.
It was built in my language of choice (PHP) and it runs easily on shared hosting. Of course, today we have plenty of VPS hosts to choose from, and it’ll run on them as well.
I was following Active Collab since the early, open-source days — before they commercialized the product and launched the A51 company. The product has changed a lot for better since then.
The feature we use the most is Tasks. They are sometimes known as Tickets or Stories in other tools. You can assign them to different people easily, track time and comment on them. It makes collaboration easy.
Occasionally we will group Tasks together under a Milestone. Some things that are not totally obvious with the 4.x version is that when you create a new ticket, you pick who it is assigned to by clicking on their name instead of the checkbox. Clicking the checkbox just adds that person as a watcher. This was helpful to figure out when we needed to add several people to a Task.
The next most-used feature is Files. It’s a great way to store all the files related to the project. We also like using Text Documents under Files because it allows for an easy way to track changes to the document. It’s like version control or a basic wiki for text documents.
If you have documentation that you want to store as a Word or a Pages document, you can easily store and keep different versions of the same file using Active Collab’s Files. It’s a good place to store documents and free some space in your Dropbox or Google Drive, or to just keep versions of graphic files that you want might want later. It’s like Github for your graphics.